Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the closure of schools and childcare centres has caused severe stress for families. This was true for both the parents and the children, as well as the mothers. The pandemic revealed yet again the preponderance in childcare and housework by women, raising serious questions about gender equality, women’s rights to financial security, their overall well-being, and social security (Doucet Mathieu, McKay 2020 p. 277).
This crisis highlights the importance of childcare benefits as income and job protection measures. This crisis is also reviving debates about the need for gender-sensitive social insurance policy (ibid. & ISSA2020c). Social security institutions recognize the legitimate reason for claiming parental, partial or sick benefits if day-care centres, kindergartens, and schools are closed. These benefits are available to parents and guardians of children who have to be quarantined. Some countries also have childcare facilities for parents who work in important professions, such as the health care sector.
COVID-19-induced childcare: Social security benefits to offset income losses
Parents or primary caregivers of children under 14 years old are eligible for parental and sick benefits. There is no age limit for disabled parents. In the case of a pandemic, temporary unemployment or mandatory reduced work hours may have been used in certain cases to provide alternative routes to childcare benefits.
These benefits share many characteristics and modalities:
- It is impossible to combine childcare leave benefits with other benefits. Most childcare benefits can’t be combined with income support benefits like unemployment or sickness benefits.
- Traditional benefits can be used to meet new or emerging childcare needs: Social security institutions offer extended parental leave and amended sickness leave programs as support for families with children.
- Temporary unemployment and reduced work hours: Partially unemployment programs are available to parents who must stay home to care for their children during school closures and quarantine.
- One-time payments: Additional payments per child for families with low or middle incomes.
- Childcare vouchers: Provided vouchers to help with the cost of camps and childcare during the holidays.
Caregiver for the sick: Emergency care.